The Wizengamot, originally known in medieval times as the Wizards Council, is an ancient legal council of witches and wizards which nowadays functions as a combination of court and parliament. The Council is tasked with the interrogation of convicted magical criminals, to decipher their wrong doings, if any, and decide whether or not said criminal is innocent or guilty. They are also involved in the debating and creation of various laws throughout the British isles. The Wizengamot Headquarters are on Level 2 of the Ministry of Magic within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The Courtroom used by the Council is located on Level 10 beneath the Department of Mysteries.
Typically, the court has up to 50 members, who each hold seats in the chamber for various reasons. Unlike the elected Minister for Magic, Wizengamot members are mostly appointed by a process involving the Minister and Wizengamot leadership. A number of judicial members, known as Seated Members, are appointed directly to the Wizengamot to serve as jurors and justices of the court. Ministerial Heads of Department and other senior figures also sit in the Council ex officio. It is also common for holders of the Order of Merlin to hold seats as well as various other witch and wizards the Minister for Magic trusts.
A Chief Warlock, who is usually expected to be impartial, presides over each case, and depending on the level of severity, may be accompanied by a Magistrate, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, the Senior Undersecretary to the Ministry of Magic, a British Youth Representative and a Court Scribe.
Functions and Procedure
The Wizengamot serves as the Wizard High Court of Law with the responsibility for conducting trials of those accused of the most serious offences against Magical Law. The Council holds all judicial power within the Ministry thereby serving as both court of first instance and court of last resort for criminal cases. The judicial function is almost exclusively the responsibility of the Seated Members of the council who serve as justices and jurors according to the particular procedure adopted for the case in question. Wizengamot convention typically adopts a number of distinct trial procedures depending upon the severity of the offence:
'Case' Trial(or 'Summary Trial'): The trial is heard before one Seated Member acting as a Judge. By convention, this form of trial is adopted only for minor offences, such as those subject to a punishment of no longer than 1 year imprisonment or a fine of no more than 70 galleons.
'Council' Trial(or 'Summary Trial by Council'):The trial is heard before a panel of Seated Members acting as a Council of Judges. Typically there will be two or three judges sometimes accompanied by relevant ex officio members if the case affects their department's area of responsibility. The Chief Warlock or Magistrate will normally preside. Such a trial might be heard for a wide variety of cases which constitute neither exceptionally minor nor exceptionally serious offences.
'Full Court' Trial (or 'Solemn Trial'): The trial is held before all Seated Members of the Wizengamot as a full Council. Full trials are presided over by the Chief Warlock with the Magistrate accompanying him as Chief Legal Officer and Public Prosecutor, along with a jury comprising of Seated Members of the Council. Verdicts are decided by majority vote without any requirement for unanimity. Such a trial is required for the most serious offences such as murder, torture, or sedition. The Wizengamot will also convene a Full Trial if it is required to sit as a court of appeal to review previous decisions or if a summary trial is deemed inappropriate for some exceptional reason.
Wizengamot trials have historically been brief and concise but the modern-day Council has made efforts to make these trials more open and structured. The accused may present witnesses to be questioned by the Wizengamot. A third-party with legal knowledge may speak on behalf of a defendant, fulfilling a similar role to that of a modern advocate, yet this practice is still rare. The accused is magically secured to a chair in the middle of the Courtroom. The presiding judge will ask for the presentation of the case for and against the accused before they are further interrogated by other members of the Council. Upon the final verdict, the penalty will be assigned by the Chief Warlock or else the presiding judge under the chosen procedure.
The Wizengamot also has the ability to conduct a Hearing to investigate matters before a trial is considered, particularly for Ministry internal matters. Hearings are normally conducted by a select committee from the court. The Wizengamot also adopts a distinct form of trial for underage Wizards known as a Disciplinary Hearing which can be conducted under any trial format as required. Such trials are normally closed to public view with the exception of representatives of the press who are permitted upon the understanding that the names of underage parties must not appear in any final release. Underage wizards are entitled to request that the British Youth Representative be present.
The Wizengamot also serves as a legislative body for the British Wizarding community. Legislation in the Ministry of Magic is generally introduced by the prerogative of the Minister for Magic. The Wizengamot's purpose is to scrutinize, revise, and advise upon proposed legislation in order to ensure its compliance with existing law and to pre-empt and avoid any difficulties the law might pose. Legislative sessions are overseen by the Chief Warlock or Magistrate acting in his place. In its legislative function, the Wizengamot might serve a partially similar function to the House of Lords within the British muggle system.
The Wizengamot is a distinguished institution within public life for the British wizarding community. Members of the Council are expected to behave with honour, dignity, and discretion in public affairs. The Wizengamot is responsible for bestowing the Order of Merlin upon witches and wizards who have achieved great distinction within the wizarding world.
The Chief Warlock is the presiding member and leader of the Wizengamot. Their role is to oversee all court hearings and trials from a non-biased and neutral stance, providing order and stability in sometimes heated debates, and declaring the fate of witch or wizards bound under question. The Chief Warlock partially serves as an impartial civic figure in comparison to the expressly political authority of the Minister for Magic. The incumbent Chief Warlock is Alistair Colquhoun who was appointed to the office from his previous role as Magistrate. He is known for his stern demeanor and sharp legal mind.
The Magistrate (formerly known as the Vice-Chancellor) provides counsel and guidance to both the Chief Warlock and Jury of the court. The original title of Vice-Chancellor was first given to Zimelda Zemeckis by Chief Warlock Judy Dorchester. In recent years, the title fell into discredit due to the fall of Dorchester's reputation. In order to improve its image, the title was change to Magistrate with the appointment of Alistair Colquhoun. During his tenure, Colquhoun successfully transformed the office into a respectable legal position. The holder now essentially serves as the Chief Legal Officer and Public Prosecutor in the Council, although the case for the Prosecution will typically be made by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement rather than the Magistrate in person. In many cases the Magistrate may also preside over trials in place of the Chief Warlock. The office has been vacant since Colquhoun's promotion to Chief Warlock in February 2027.
Members of the Court
The Seated Members (also Jurors or Council) participate in hearings and trials by questioning those who stand accused, participating in various debates, and voting on important matters such the convictions of the accused, or new laws. Certain Ministry officials hold their seats ex officio in virtue of their positions of responsibility in the Ministry but members can also be appointed individually to the Wizengamot for its own purposes as Seated Members. The Wizengamot membership typically includes:
Official Wizengamot employees
Heads of Ministry Departments
Special Advisors to the Wizengamot
Headmaster/Mistress of Hogwarts School
Holders of the Order of Merlin 1st or 2nd class
Other honorary witch and wizards granted seats by the Minister for Magic
The Court Scribe's duty is to put the hearing or trial into word form, through use of quill and scroll.
British Youth Representative
The British Youth Representative is a coveted spot held by an exceptional student, usually from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They attend the hearings and trials of young witch and wizards so that they can be fairly represented, and can be granted leave from the castle in these rare cases.
Student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Behind the Scenes
The Wizengamot can be found in the virtual world Second Life® @ Mischief Managed, a devotional sim created by Anya Ohmai and voluntarily maintained by various creative Administrators and players. You can find out more information here: http://mischiefmanagedsl.net
In the British muggle judicial system, the Magistrate's role is somewhat equivalent to the Attorney General (England & Wales) and Lord Advocate (Scotland) in addition to serving as a Judge in their own right.
Strictly speaking, all Wizengamot trials are bench trials as the sitting judges and jurors are all members of the court officially. The Wizarding world appears to have no equivalent to right of trial by jury in the sense adopted by British muggles.
In 2021, Helena Arlet, a student character at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was put on trial for the attempted murder of another student. This made the Wizengamot's first appearance, whereby a chamber set was devised, and a series of characters introduced, namely Judy Dorchester and Zimelda Zemeckis.
In order to become part of the Wizengamot, one must simply apply for the Ministry. This is both for characters that have technically been there a while, or are new applicants. There is an option to specify this within the form itself.
It is possible for at least one student to be the British Youth Representative.